Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, March 23)

Mar 23, 2012

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online Friday, March 23 at noon ET, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at

Got any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody! Thanks for wasting time with me on this beautiful (here) Friday. Next Friday I will be on vacation [steps away from computer and does embarrassing "I work from home" dance], so feel free to ignore your problems till they go away on their own, since that always works really well.

If you want to expand your time-wasting possibilities, then please subscribe to me on Facebook (link). That way you can get my daily column delivered straight to your retinas every morning, or complain to me directly and I might actually respond, or you can watch me post unedited stuff seven days a week instead of just Fridays at noon.




Carolyn, this is going to seem like a silly question, but here it goes. I've been battling weight issues my entire life and in the last five years or so, I've started to get a handle on it. I identified a lot of the unhealthy foods I was eating and eliminated (or at least severely curtailed) them from my diet. I exercise more regularly. But there's one thing I haven't been able to beat and that's pizza. Friday night pizza was a tradition in my house growing up, and now as an adult, it feels like a nice reward after a long week of work. Unfortunately, I just can't control myself and end up eating most of if not all in one meal. Any ideas on what to do?

Go out, order slices. Two. New tradition. 

A life without pizza is a life without pizza. 

I married a wonderful man with grown kids. It's my first marriage and I have no kids. A few years into our marriage, his son announced his upcoming wedding to which we flew down to attend. The son introduced me to his new in-laws as his "step-mom." I was (and still am) very offended. I've never mothered him or anyone in any way (they were grown and out of the house when I came on the scene), My question: how do I prevent this from happening in the future (the sister may be getting married soon) or how do I respond if they have the audacity to call me that again? Still Offended...

The audacity to call you what you are?

Legally, you're their stepmother. Therefore, the proper response to being introduced as such is "Nice to meet you."

Now, if you still want an answer to the "how do I prevent this from happening in the future" question, then the answer is to hold onto this petty grudge with all your might. That way, your stepchildren will eventually come around to not inviting you to things and voila, no "stepmother" introductions to worry about.


Hi Carolyn-- I am 24 with my friends scattered across the country. I have recently found myself resenting my old, used-to-be-dear friends who don't call, don't write, but think that a Facebook wall-post or a mass-text is "reaching out" to me. I've bent over backwards in the past to keep in touch in a personal way by calling or writing, but have had my efforts returned with a 1-line blip on Facebook so many times that I've recently given up. Others have told me it's not personal, that it's just a sign of the times. I'm busier than most but I still carve out time for what I think matters, which is REAL communication, and I say if they're my real friends, they should do the same. I'm hurt and angry over this because I feel that, in the end, these "friends" don't care as much about me as I care about them. What's your take?

That's possible. It's also possible that they're just as sincere about showing their affection for you in their way as you are in showing it your way. 

Two suggestions that cover both bases: 1. Put some effort into finding friends whose communication style aligns better with yours; 2. Find that energy by putting less into taking offense and seeking evidence to support your decision to take offense.

Seriously. Your feelings are valid, but sticking around to have them validated just keeps you in an unhappy place longer than you need to be there. It can take a while to develop this into  habit, but it's worth trying: When you realize you're "bent over backward" trying to get a better outcome that the one you're getting, take that as a cue to unbend and move on. Repeat till it sticks.

First - congratulation to the writer for making more healthful food choices! It's not easy. In addition to your slices idea, s/he could also get an individual pizza (frozen or not). They're usually a little more food than two slices, but it might be good for variety's sake.

Right, that works too, thanks. And seconding the congrats.

And more on smells and strong feelings here (link).

Many of you will suspect that I posted this just to celebrate the existence of something called "fart spray," and many of you will be right.

I am 60, have anxiety and depression. My mother is 84, getting dementia, lives alone, and I. Am. IT! to drive her around, take her to the doctors, etc. She has been rotten to me, verbally and physically abusive, all my life, and though we get along OK now (I can't just cut her off), I am filled with resentment, and yes, fear and anxiety about her. She calls all hours of the day and night (time means nothing to her) and though is in her right mind most of the time, I can see bad things coming. I have no one. No one. I am it, and find myself spending the last years of my life running and jumping for this horrible mother. Am I simply immature? How do I gird my loins and DO this caretaking stuff?

I'm sorry, that's a tough hand you drew. The best answer I can give is to steer you to a support group for dementia caregivers. Not only will it give you a place to tell your story to an understanding audience, it will also connect you to whatever network their is in your area for care of people with dementia--everything from respite care to legal and medical advice to low- or no-cost counseling for you to deal with having to wait hand and foot on your abuser. There is no reason for you to be alone here. 

To get you started, I just took aquick look myself to see what's out there, and this popped up: I didn't have a chance to vet it thoroughly but its bona fides appear solid.





it's where the party's at


That's for any of you who may have missed it in the past.

Carolyn, I understand where the impulse came from, but - take away the anger and indignation, and the LW does have the basis of a legitimate question. She's not comfortable being introduced as "Stepmom" when she hasn't acted as a mother in anyway. She can (kindly, without snapping offended sparks) say "I appreciate the full scale welcome, but I am feeling uneasy about it, because it's not really a role I ever took in your life, I came on the scene when you were an adult. Would you mind introducing me as "my Dad's wife"? And then for all that's holy, allow his children to be part of her life actively, whether or not there's any parental/child relationship between them.

I see  your point, but have one concern with your proposed solution: By introducing their stepmother as "my dad's wife," these kids will create the impression that -they- want to keep her at arm's length, which they apparently don't. I.e., I think her asking for that will backfire on her.

I like this song so much I thought I was playing it, but I'm not. Mildly confusing turntable moment.

Hi Carolyn, My partner has an ex who is having a delayed reaction to their breakup. (We've been together about 9 months and their breakup was somewhere between months to a year before we met.) I know it has nothing to do with me, but I still feel badly when I am not invited to occasions where they both will be. Mostly, my partner avoids these situations so as to avoid the ex and the issue. But they share so many people/interests/professional stuff in common that some of these occasions are unavoidable, and so far I've been the one left out. Should I give them a wide berth and let them work it out themselves? And if so, at what point can I consider this no longer about them trying to work it out but rather my being sacrificed to the gods of non-confrontation? I know this is a "pick your battles" thing, so any advice on which hill to choose?

Who is choosing not to invite you, and, if it's not your boyfriend, then why isn't he saying to these hosts, "I don't think it's fair to my GF to exclude her because my ex has a problem with it"?

Without knowing the details, my general answer is that I can see wanting to be a good sport it I'm asked once to bow out to pre-empt a  scene, but I'd call BS on anything ritualized, like your exclusion seems to have been. 

Happy husband and I finally retired comfortably after successfully raising three sons, two of them following in our footsteps of college degrees and successful careers. The third son shunned our offer of free college education, and hit the job market, becoming a blue collar worker with little hope for job promotion because of his uneven temper. He married young, is now struggling with debt and two precious children to support. And his wife confided in me that he is drinking more and more. She is threatening to leave him, although she has no place to go (except with us) and little education herself. His drinking and behavior is affecting the children, too. Apparently, he drinks a case of beer at one sitting, occasionally gets out-of-control drunk, yet refuses to admit he is an alcoholic. What can we do as parents who love him unconditionally, but can't stand seeing him self-destruct?

Seems to me the compassionate move, as well as highest-percentage, is to let your DIL know that when she's ready to leave, she and the kids--not your son--are welcome to come live with you till the mom can get on her feet. From the sounds of it, your grandkids urgently need you to do this. Make it part of the deal for your DIL to get training, at the local community college or similar, in a profession that will enable her to stand on her own in X amount of time. You probably will have to underwrite it but it will pay off in this family's stability.

As for your son, what this will accomplish on his behalf is to take away the biggest fig leaf that allows him to insist he doesn't have a drinking problem.  

I also urge you to get a second opinion on this advice by talking to a family therapist who specializes in addiction. 

Hi Carolyn, I have a problem with an upcoming wedding. My brother is five years younger than me and he is getting married. His fiance asked me to be one of five bridesmaids. We are not particularly close, but I think she extended the bridesmaid invite as a social grace that I certainly appreciate. I have a four year old and nine month old children and am having trouble losing weight. All of the bridesmaids are young, mid-20's, and have cute bodies. I am hesitant to accept the bridesmaid invitation because I do not want to stick out as the Fat Old Bridesmaid. If we were close, I would suck it up and go anyway. But we are not, and it seems like I would be putting myself through unnecessary self conscious behavior. What do you (and the other commentors) think about this?

I see where you're coming from, but this also saddens me. If you hide yourself because you think your body isn't "cute" enough, then you might be avoiding "unnecessary self conscious behavior," yes--but won't you also be aware throughout that you would have stood up there with her if you liked yourself more? And won't that also reinforce the corrosive self-hatred you're harboring?

You are you and you have inherent beauty, and any pounds plus or minus, here or there, are just life mileage. Life mileage used to be valued before the nitpickers and narcissists took over the machinery of popular images. Do what you want regarding the wedding, but please do consider striking a one-woman blow against the tyranny of superficial values. 

My wife and I went to therapy for several sessions a while ago, made some progress, and stopped going. It so happens that our former therapist seems to have similar interests and travels in the same social circles that we do. We run into her from time to time at concerts, parties, etc. It's rather awkward because she knows everything about us, we know nothing about her, and no one else knows we already know each other. So we all politely nod and avoid interacting. Any advice on how to deal with the situation?

Seems to me you've already figured it out. Nod politely and avoid interacting. 

Also keep in mind that while your intimate "everything" seems like a big sensitive deal for someone to know, for her there's no fizz to it--it's just part of life. 

Dear carolyn, Any advise on how to decide if it's a good idea to let my mother take my 2 year old son overseas to visit family? My grandmother (in her 80s) has suggested that instead of going to daycare, that he comes with mother (60s) to visit. My mother is more than happy, I selfishly think I will miss him too much. However, exposing my children to my cultural roots and having them grow up close to that side of the family is very important to me. There will also be plenty of family in the same household to help take care of my son. I want to make the best decision for him but am torn. My mind spins with concerns about jet lag, the 13 plus hour plane ride, being scared that his parents aren't there... Pointers please! Mother of a multicultural child.

My first thought is that a 2-year-old won't pick up doodleysquat about this other culture, but he will miss his mommy to pieces. Anyone else?

Follow-up thought: This might not even be necessary to parse, since anything that leads a parent to say "My mind spins with concerns" is arguably an automatic no-go. You're the last word, and as long as you aren't refusing to allow something that is the norm for 90-something percent of children your child's age*, you can say no without further jsutification or review.


*Can't provide fuel for the phobic parent.

Hi Carolyn! My two best friends and I have been out of college for a few years. Friend A and Friend B work in similar fields: A is a very high achiever and is excelling in hers, and while B has experienced some setbacks, she has a steady job and she is working hard to get to where she wants to be. Lately, when I talk to B, she tends to compare us unfavorably to A: that A is prettier, that A will be the only one to get married, and that she'll have to support us when we're broke and jobless. I'm proud of where I am right now, and her comments are starting to sting. I don't think she's doing this intentionally, but when I tell her not to compare us, she'll say she doesn't mean it that way, and then it'll just happen again. How do I get her to stop?

Well, you can't "get" her to do anything. Hax World 101.

You can respond to her by speaking your mind clearly, if you haven't already: "When you lump me in as someone inferior to A, I feel stung and insulted. I am proud of where I am now." You can even add, "I'm proud to know you, too--you and A are apples and oranges to me."

Then, when she  (presumably) says, "I didn't mean it that way," you can say: "What did you mean, then?"

Then you can talk about what's really bothering her, ideally.

If she just deflects and goes back to bashing anyone who isn't A, then you go to plan B, which is to say: "I think I made it clear how I feel about the A worship. Let's change the subject." If she's receptive, you can even do something silly, like develop a self-loathing-alarm code phrase. It'll be hard for her to keep talking about what losers you both are if one of you has shouted a preemptive "fart spray."


After 7 years of dating (since my junior year of college) and one year of being engaged, my fiance just brought them up. Both of us have advanced degrees but he's in finance and I work in public interest law. I am significantly less financially secure than him and will make significantly less in my career. But we've always functioned like a team. We've both made moves and career decisions for each other. He's my best friend. But I'm really hurt. Our wedding is only a month and a half out and this feels very rushed to me. We both have said we would never get divorced (and after 8 happy years together, I truly believe we'll make it), but his phrasing is that "he analyzes risk for a living and he just wants to be extra secure that in the unlikely event of divorce, he is prepared." I think that even having a pre-nupt opens the door to divorce and don't understand why if he says he doesn't believe in divorce that he'd request one. This feels like the biggest breach in our relationship ever. Advice? Am I being ridiculous? Is he?

Prenups are wise and necessary in some (very narrowly defined) cases, and I can see why this request for one rubs you the wrong way. in the event of a divorce, a decent person won't expect a nickel more than what's fair from the other person. So he's essentially saying that, should you and he divorce, he doesn't trust you to be that fair player. I.e., he needs to be "extra secure" to protect himself from you. If that's the case, then why is he marrying you? And, alternately, why wouldn't he want you to get your fair share?

If that's an accurate reflection of the way you feel, then please articulate that for him. 

OP here, thanks so much for taking my question. You are right and intellectually I agree with you. But I am having a hard time feeling excited to wear a pink strapless gown with a bunch of really cute younger women. My husband thinks this is no big deal -- but men are generally improved by tuxes and the same can't be said about bridesmaid's dresses. What you said is right, I am just having a hard time getting behind it.

Pink strapless, that's unfortunate. Would the bride give you license to wear something that flatters you, be it a dress in the same fabric but different cut, or a jacket or shawl to help you feel more comfortable?

This is not to say that a woman who's carrying a few extra pounds can't look pretty in a pink strapless gown. It's just that both pink and strapless are both choices that flatter a narrower selection of body types than some other choices. I've seen fabulous, toned, youthful bodies fall victim to strapless dresses.

If the bride doesn't grant you any leeway  (please, brides, grant leeway), then option 2 is a skilled tailor and a fabulous necklace, if you do choose to accept her invitation.

I meant to add this to my original answer but got off on a rant: You can also volunteer to serve in the wedding in some other capacity, like a reader or flower girl/ring-bearer wrangler or something else. Still, do that if it sounds like a lot more fun than standing in a row (sure does to me), not because you have baby-pooch.



I have to absolutely disagree. Prenups are smart. Its always smart to be prepared for the worst. You wear a seatbelt, not because you're counting on getting in an accident, but just because. Prenups are the same thing.

That's a false equivalency, car accident to divorce. I maintain, a decent person won't take a soon-to-be ex to the cleaners, nor will a decent person try to deny a soon-to-be ex the financial settlement to which s/he is entitled. If you think your intended has the capacity to behave outside the bounds of decency in the event of a divorce, then don't marry him or her.

I think a prenup is smart if you have financial entanglements that go beyond what is yours alone--for example, family interests to protect, or children from a prior marriage, etc. In this case, they're talking about income each would bring to the marriage while married. How is he arguing against fair distribution of that in the event of a split?

Your advice was right on, but as someone who deals with this in my profession I'd like to put it even more bluntly: Do not sign that prenup, and if your fiance says it's a necessity, let him cancel the wedding. Prenups need to be carefully considered well in advance, not rushed into a month and a half before the wedding. Most couples don't need a prenup. For the ones that do, the discussion should take place before the wedding date has been set.


Dear Extroverts: Please stop taking it personally. We don't mean to insult you by not wanting to socialize all the time and talk on the phone for long periods of time. This behavior exhausts us, and we love it that email and Facebook have been developed so we can stay in touch regularly with the people we love without having to talk, talk, talk all the time. We promise not to take it personally when you call us and chat for an hour, no matter how much this behavior annoys us (but we can't promise to not occasionally pretend we're in the shower to avoid the call when we're just not up to it). Please try to understand that we still want to be your friend. Sincerely, Introverts


I'm sure she's glad to see you better, together, out enjoying life. That's her goal and everytime she sees y'all it's a success story for her sense of fullfillment.

This is awesome, thanks. (The OP did say they were getting along now, right?) 

The Alzheimer's Association ( is a good place to start. Among other things, they have listings of local information sessions and support groups.


Carolyn, I went through something similar, and wish I had not. The law basicially assumes that a relative, especially a daughter, is expected to provide care with no compensation, for purposes of the Medicaid-spend down, five-year lookback. A written contract compensating the LW for everything s/he is doing now is essential!! An attorney, elderlaw specialist is essential. We had to hire such attorneys in 2 states and only wish we had done so sooner.

Thanks, happy to post this.

My wife decided to lose 20 pounds. I didn't think she was particularly overweight (she's always been active, so that's not really an issue), but she does look a lot better with the weight off. The downside is that she's gone from a happy, easy-going person to a hypercritical, calorie-counting fiend. It's not just the weight loss (and I'm not looking for advice), but I wanted to second the notion that beauty has very little to do with the size of your butt (or, um, whatever).

This has been a public service announcement. 

Carolyn, As an attorney with a matrimonial law background, I agree that most people do not have the assets to necessitate a pre nup. HOWEVER, if one side wants it, I think it's imperative. As a planning measure, it gives both sides notice of what their obligations will be if things go bad. That helps both sides determine whether staying married is "worth" it (crass as that may be), or in the case of abuse or custody issues, what the hurdles will be to escape-- something that will help an attorney later advise the abuse victim or custody seeker of his/her rights. As a general matter, wouldn't you rather decide what's "fair" when you both love each other and expect never to use the provisions of the agreement? I urge everyone to consider it gravely before refusing.

Voice from the other side, thanks.

Hi Carolyn You offered the reluctant bridesmaid the idea of wearing a a fabulous necklace. Don't most brides regulate the jewelry of the bridesmaids too? So that they all look the same.??

"The same" in this case is a vast expanse of uninterrupted skin, which doesn't flatter anyone with broad shoulders, no matter how svelte. So, I'll use your post as an opportunity for another PSA: Brides, give your bridesmaids enough leeway to interpret your assigned uniform in a way that flatters them. Thank youse.

For the love of god this is the best thing ever. I don't even care about the chat now. Thanks.

Well then I love it too.

And this song reminds me SO MUCH of my friend from freshman year of college.

For those not on turntable, my apologies--it's "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo. 

And for those not in my freshman dorm in 1984--it's Mike Chessler. Hi Chess!

Hi Carolyn, What are your remedies for loneliness with a splash of boredom thrown in? A recreational team sport? Or, figure out whose company you enjoy most--older people, peers, kids, dogs/cats? And then find a volunteer gig that puts you in the company of that group. It's all some version of find-something-that-suits-you-and-get-your-butt-out-there.

Radical, I know.

My best friend just got engaged; she's had a rough life so all I want is to be happy for her. But I just can't, and I'm so worried she'll see through me faking it and be crushed/angry/hurt. She's overcome so much (getting a great degree after becoming a single mom at 18, plus a lot of other things) and this guy just screams of her settling for less than she deserves. Her past choices in men have not been good so this one is better than past relationships, but that doesn't mean he's good. Plus, it seems like they are really rushing into it - they've been dating since last June, 5 months of it were long distance. He proposed 3 weeks and ago she's already thrown herself into wedding planning mode. How do keep my misgivings to myself during this process?

"less than she deserves" how? It matters. Thanks.

Carolyn, I may just need a swift kick in the butt to suck it up... BUT... I have a friend who CONSTANTLY bails at the last minute. I maintain this relationship because I am okay with being the one who puts in the effort to go see her and always know when I make plans for her to come to me, that she's going to bail, so I'll probably end up with a nice evening to read/watch a movie whatever. Well, I'm getting married, and have invited her ot my wedding. When a mutual friend of ours got married, she RSVP'd yes, but just didn't show. My bridal shower is tomorrow and she cancelled today. I would love for her to be there, but I'd also like to be able to plan for her to not if she isn't. Is there any way to talk to her about the bailing and let her know I'm okay with it normally, but blowing off my wedding with RSVPing yes will really hurt?

Someone who bails this regularly has something else going on. Depression or other mental illness, maybe? Does she show up when she's the one to make the plans?

As for your specific question, sure, you can tell her that, but she's going to bail anyway. You know that, right?


I'm so hungry I'm about to eat my chair. Back in 3.

I recently came into a sort-of conflict with a friend. It's sort-of because nothing actually happened, she just stopped talking to me. Period. I didn't tell my closest friend because she was friends with the friend that cut me off for, as far as I know, no reason, and I didn't want to gossip, spread rumors, etc and ruin their friendship. Now, my closest friend has come into conflict with this friend and it's making me upset because this "friend" is cutting her off, too--except they're life-long friends, and now they're not talking at all. I don't think my friend deserves to be treated like this, because she is kind and loyal. I want to talk to this person but I don't know what to say/I'm too scared. What should I do?

Say to your closest friend, "She cut me off, too. I guess this means neither of us should take it personally." Then carry on with lives that sound as if they're better off with this punitive (pseudo-) friend. 

Stepping over the bounds here, perhaps--but, you sound like a pleaser. If so, I'll throw into my answer some reassurance that it's okay to be annoyed with someone, to say so out loud, and to see another person's annoying qualities as grounds unto themselves to decide your friendship with that person isn't worth the work you have to put into it. 

So I have a friend who talks to customer service a lot. Movie ticket takers, waiters, store clerks, bartenders, you name it. She strikes a very personal conversation, which is nice and appropriate sometimes. But other times there will be a long line behind us of people who are likely and rightfully irritated that they have to wait longer due to a personal conversation. Is this just a characteristic of her or should I have a conversation with her about it? If I was behind us, I would be annoyed. Which puts me in the category of annoying by association.

It's fine to tap your friend on the shoulder in the long-line cases to say, "Francine, hate to spoil the fun but we've got a soon-to-be-angry mob behind us." Actually, "fine" is the wrong word--it's your duty to butt in. The customer service person is in a terrible spot here, needing both to be friendly and brisk, and you're the one in the best position to play "bad" guy.

She shows up when she's the one to make the plans. I don't think it's depression because she does stuff with her neighbors etc regularly (we live about an hour and a half apart, so I can't really do the inpromptu bbq etc.) Maybe I'm just holding onto a friendship that's run it's course?

Ehhh maybe, but the fact that she does things with people close by actually supports my hunch. Following through on others' plans is just a huge obstacle for depressed people--seen this with bipolar disorder as well--where showing up at impromtu things (or things they plan) does not present the same obstacle. For people who feel out of control on the inside, being able to control the terms of socializing is the difference between going out or staying curled up on the couch. With neighbors, for example, she can just wander over when she's feeling up to it--and wander back home when she's done, even 15 minutes in. That's key.

Staying friends with her on these terms won't be easy even if you decide to stick around, because you're essentially signing up to be stood up unless she calls you. But, in a way, that can spare you of making a decision one way or the other: If she comes to you, then you're friends, and if she doesn't, then you're not.


If the LW were a MAN whose fiancee was asking for a prenup, would you give the same response?


Look up One Brick ( It is a great volunteer community which is involved in many different organizations. Always fun, and great people to interact with!

Don't know of it myself, but happy to facilitate "always fun" any way I can.

Carolyn, surely you don't believe that "decent" people never behave badly? In extremely stressful situations, which divorces often are (yours seems to have been an exception) people who are otherwise very decent behave quite badly. Asking for a pre-nup is not equal to saying "I don't trust you". Also, why do you think that a pre-nup always benefits only the person who brings up the idea of having one? Usually the pre-nup has to be considered fair to each party or it won't hold up in court anyway. Perhaps you should talk to lawyers and financial planners and get an idea of exactly how pre-nups work.

I believe decent people are pushed to bad behavior  in a divorce when the other half of the ex-couple is not decent and introduces the bad behavior. 

And you're right, I should learn more about prenups, because I haven't yet run across one initiated by someone who wants to protect his or her spouse's rights and assets.

Okay, I've been trying like mad to figure this out. I know that LW is "letter writer" but what on earth is OP? Opinion Purveyor?

Original Poster. Basically the same as LW, though LW is more commonly used for someone who writes in to an advice column and OP is more commonly used for an online chat or forum.

I'm pregnant, and have noticed that a couple of my close friends have been acting distant lately. One I haven't seen since I told her I was pregnant months ago -- our emails have been short and she's never once asked about how I've been doing. The other has flat out stated to an acquaintance that she isn't comfortable hanging around pregnant people. I've been supportive and excited about their own milestones (marriage) but this is my first big life-changing one, and I've gotten nothing but silence from them. How do I deal? FTR they have no kids of their own... maybe that's a factor? I don't want to make them uncomfortable if they are unhappy, but I wish they would share in my happiness as I have in theirs.

Any chance they're trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant?

That's the first thing that came to mind. Less commonly, some people just don't like to be around kids, don't like it when their friends have kids, don't want to hear about things people talk about when they start having kids, etc. 

While it would be nice if they shared your happiness, it would be of more practical use at this point if they just shared their reasons for darting out of your life like roaches in a bright kitchen. If you (still) value these friends, invite them out and ask, nicely.

Is there any way I can ask my husband to not attend the birth of our second baby? During my first birth my husband was useless, didn't do anything I had asked him to do prior to labor, sat in a chair and basically gawked awkwardly at the painful experience that was my first birth. It made me more nervous and upset to have him there. I just want to get a doula and show him the baby once it's out - like in the olden days. Is there a rule that says husband need to be there for every minute of their wife's labor?

The only rule that applies here is that life partners need to be able to talk to each other about difficult subjects. Talk to him, please. Though leave the various forms of "useless" and "awkward" out of it.

FWIW, it sounds as if he might be grateful to be out in a waiting room somewhere. If he isn't, and really wants to be there, then you can still insist--your labor after all, and relaxing makes it safer for you and baby--but another thing to consider is a childbirth class. At least this time it won't be new for either of you, and knowing what to expect can help you create a plan that he might actually be able to follow.


My husband of 10 years is seemingly unaware of all of the routine tasks around our house, despite my efforts to make him aware and get him to take some responsibility. If I ask him directly (and nicely, calmly) to do something, like unload the dishwasher, he gets mad and says that he doesn't like my tone. If I make a list of what needs to be done and ask him to choose the tasks he wants to do, he gets mad and says I'm treating him like a child. If I say nothing, he does absolutely nothing around the house. When he does do something around the house, it's done with great drama, and I have to deal with his slamming things around, sighing deeply and generally acting like he's doing me a favor. I have asked him how he would like to handle divvying up the chores, and he shrugs. I don't know what to do anymore. If it matters, I work full-time and he works part-time. I brought that up with him ONE TIME, and now he says that I lord it over him, which isn't true at all. We've been to marriage counseling. He basically lied through every session, and I ended up looking crazy.

What part of the marriage are you happy to be in?

Carolyn I almost never talk about work outside the office. As in, never-ever about projects or what I do (ever) and only occasionally about the personalities (and only then if they irritate me and I need to vent). Is this a sign of something? Boredom, or what? Or just that I get my fill of work talk at work and want to disengage? It seems to me that people who love love love their job talk it up. Hmmmm.

A lot of people talk about their jobs simply because they're either there, getting ready to go there, going there, or coming home from there for the majority of their waking hours. A lot of people don't talk about their jobs for the exact same reason. Also, too, some workplaces provide good storytelling material, some don't. And, some people can make a brilliant story about the community stapler. 

In other words, I don't think there are any general conclusions to draw here. You have your way, others have theirs, and that might be the only message to take away.

Hi Carolyn ~ I haven't gotten along with my mother-in-law for quite awhile. In a very tiny, very simplified nutshell, she and I disagree about whether my brother-in-law (husband's brother) is a lying, manipulative, bas.... um, jerk. My husband does his best to stay above the fray - he believes many of the things his brother has done qualify him as a jerk, supports my right to my opinion, but of course loves his mother & brother and doesn't want to take a side. Anyway... we (2 teen girls, husband and me) go to visit MIL, FIL, and 96-yr old grandmother every holiday in another state. BIL always makes an appearance while we're there too. My husband feels obligated to visit, always thinking it 'might be the last time I see my grandma.' I don't want to go. I suffered through Christmas with a clenched jaw & would rather relax, for once, over spring break. If I stay here, I look like a bi... jerk. If I go, there will be tension. Stay or go? Thanks.

Seems to me the "every holiday" edict is the problem, not the other stuff. I sympathize with your husband completely on the "might be the last time" pressure--he's trying to pre-empt his own guilt (though unwittingly amplifying it at the same time, but that's another answer)--but he needs to stop bringing the whole train along every time he wants to update his anti-guilt inoculation. Instead, he goes down for, say, long weekends, and one or two holidays a year--with a daughter or two as you all see fit--and then you and your family have nuclear-family time for the rest of the breaks on the calendar. Even if you have to scale them down to free up money for his solo flights to MIL/FILopolis. Right now you're all hostages to the Grandma death watch, and that can't be anyone's idea of a vacation.

hi, carolyn. what is the best way to respond to a boyfriend who doesn't tell you what he wants, but then punishes you when he doesn't get it (by pouting, acting distant, etc.)? is there any hope for working this out? my last attempt -- pointing out to him that i didn't know what he wanted because he didn't tell me -- was met with by silence.

"I'm sorry, this is not working out. I do not want to be in a relationship where I get punished for not reading your mind. I hope you find a way to express what you need, because I do care about you and want you to be with someone who makes you happy. Goodbye and good luck."  

I'm a graduating senior and in combination with the constant rejection of job hunting and maintaining struggling friendships I have been feeling very stressed and upset the last couple months. In addition, my now ex-boyfriend of four months (who was my first relationship and who showed no real signs of being a jerk) dumped me via text a couple weeks ago for another girl and hasn't said a thing to me since. Since then I have been even more constantly upset and unable to concentrate on school or other activities. Inside know I am intelligent, well-liked by my peers, attractive, and highly valued and my friends and professors affirm these things but I just can't seem to get myself to listen to them and stop feeling like I'm always the second option. Is this normal post-breakup behavior?

Don't fuss with the normal/not normal question, because it's not really relevant. What matters now is that you find a way to tend to your stress and your overflowing emotions.

More to the point: What matters is whether you're able to get an appointment with a therapist through your school's health service. Possible? ASAP? Talking to a competent pro is the fastest way to sort through this basket of loose ends you've accumulated. It sounds as if prioritizing your concerns, tossing out some minor ones and finding strategies to deal with the major ones will take away the sensation of being overwhelmed, and with it a lot of your stress. Hang in there.

In short, my boyfriend's father is likely dying. "Tom" is angry with his father and refuses to visit him in the hospital and says he won't attend the funeral. He didn't attend his mothers, for similar reasons, so I believe him. I can't change his mind though I've tried every way possible. When/if the time comes, I will attend the funeral. He will try to forbid me. I intend to tell him that I'm 55, and he doesn't control me, and his family dynamics don't include me, he's made that clear. Am I right to do this?

Dunno. Why are you doing it? Why do you want to badly for Tom to approach his family (presumably) your way instead of his?

Shoot, that was an answer intended to draw out a follow-up, and it's 3:00. 

OP, if you're there, please do respond and we'll pick it up next ... agh, off next week. 

If you hurry I'll try to get it in. otherwise, April 6?

Hi Carolyn! DH's cousin has moved near us and wants to include us in lots of stuff. I think growing up in another state, away from most of her extended family has her craving family contact, which I understand. What I don't understand is her inviting us to a joint BD celebration she is attending at another BD person's house (whom we have never met) and asking us to bring some food. We declined, stating we are uncomfortable with this situation and she texted back "that's okay, if that's how you feel." Yep, this was all done via text. With 48 hours notice. It's seems a bit passive-aggressive to me, or am I blowing it out of proportion?

Man I hate texting for some things. 

I bet that, had you actually had a conversation about this, there'd have been a 90 percent lower chance of hard feelings.

If she's having a casual potluck group birthday at a friend's house, and the friend urged her to invite whoever she wanted, then why not reach out to you? 

By text, however, it comes off as a summons to cook for a stranger's party. By text, your regrets come across as, ew, we're not doing that and I can't believe you asked us to. 

So please suggest to DH that he call his cousin, say that he's afraid something got lost in translation, and ask her to explain the deal with the party. Then he can answer yea or nay in a friendlier way.


Unless you know the cousin pretty well, then you do it.

Hi Carolyn - You have recently published a couple columns that deal with the difficulty in breaking up with someone. In one, the letter writer needs to break up with her live-in boyfriend. In another, a groom-to-be has cold feet. In both, you rightfully advocate that breaking up, honestly and compassionately, is the right thing to do. Well, my question is what do in the aftermath. I made it this far. I broke off a relationship that wasn't working. I feel like I was honest and kind. But, what now? I am feeling crushing guilt and it is magnified by my ex's attempts to contact me and talk things through. How do I manage and cope with these feelings? I have never been on this side of things before. Thanks for everything you do.

You're welcome, and thanks for the kind words.

I think the best way to approach the requests for follow-up conversations is (as long as you aren't feeling threatened) to agree to talk about it once if not a few times more. When it comes to the point where nothing new is being said, and/or it's clearly not about his trying to make sense of it, it's just about not letting go, then you say that,  gently but firmly, and make it clear that you're going to say no to future requests to talk about it. Then do say no if a request comes.


Carolyn - extending this to you and the nuts because I don't know who else to ask. My daughter (2) has always preferred me over my husband. She loves her dad, and he stays home with her 2 days a week, but if she has access to the two of us, she wants me to do it (whatever it is). The problem is? She's not really very "nice" to me. She doesn't say anything in a calm voice - every request immediately is screamed. Saying no results in long crying/screaming fits. My husband claims she is not as bad with him, and suggested maybe it's because I give in easier than he does. I'm giving being firm a try, but it just means longer periods of crying/screaming, and there are days where I feel I could waste all the time I get to spend with her "standing my ground" and listening to her cry. Is this a normal phase? Should I be standing my ground? Should I be worried?

Stand your ground! Stand your ground! Try "1-2-3 Magic"; it's not the only good book on discipline, but it's easy to remember in the face of a fit. 

There is absolutely no case where it's okay for a toddler to order a parent around. You mean well but you're creating a monster, because your daughter has cracked your code: Scream and she gets what she wants. Consider this a memo from Society, begging you to learn to be firm.

One more quick skim for that follow-up, then I'll go ...

Okay, not there. Sorry for the hanging thread.

OH and I almost forgot: Last week, I answered Mr. Cold Feet, who didn't want to marry the too-generous girlfriend who supported him through law school. Some of you called me on this, and you were absolutely right: Yes, he should call off the wedding, but he also needs to pay her back. You guys were so right and I'm sorry I missed that.

And that does it for today. Thanks everyone, and hope to see you here in two weeks.

AGH i did end up forgetting something very important. This is Levi's last day producing this chat. Sadness.

Thanks Levi, and good luck.  

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

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